Nov. 19, 2010

Courtesy of Nebraska - Kearney

Kearney, Neb.
- The 10th-ranked Nebraska-Kearney volleyball team had four players reach double digits in kills for a second straight night, and tied a season-high with 12 team blocks, to beat 4th-ranked SW Minnesota State in four sets (-22, -19, 26-28, -17) in a second round NCAA Tournament Friday night in Marshall, Minn.

The fourth-seeded Lopers (31-4) will play for the Central Region title, and the right to go to the Elite Eight, Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. against three-time defending national champ Concordia-St. Paul.

The second-seeded and No. ranked 1 Golden Bears (28-4) beat RMAC-member Metro State, 3-1, in the other semifinal match. Not only has Concordia won 18 in a row but, since 2007, they are 138-9 which includes a Division II record 74-match win streak. Two years ago in the second round of regionals, UNK led CSP, 2-1, on its home court before the Bears rallied to win.

Tonight, the top-seeded Mustangs (27-4) were playing with a heavy heart as head coach Terry Culhane suffered a heart attack early Friday morning. He is resting comfortable in a hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D.; assistant Raftyn Rignell led the team against the Lopers.

To advance to the Sweet 16” for the first time since 2007, UNK needed to limit Southwests three-headed monster of outside Brooke Burmeister (5-11) and middles Devin Diedrich (6-0) and Mary Goth (6-1). The trio accounts for nearly 80 percent of Southwests kills on the year with each averaging over 3.48 kills per set.

Getting a team-best seven blocks from freshman middle Ellie Pesavento (Omaha Marian), and a
Kaleigh Anderson
season-best six stuffs from sophomore outside Ariel Krolikowski (Grand Island), the Lopers held the trio somewhat in check. Burmesiter had a team-high 22 kills and hit .311 but also had eight errors. Groth (nine errors) and Diedrich (five errors) combined for 32 kills and each hit under .251.

Not only was UNK strong at the net but also in the backrow. Senior libero Katlyn Heiserman (Manchester, Iowa) had a match-high 23 digs with defensive specialists Kaleigh Anderson (Lincoln SW) and senior Setera Michaels (North Platte) each digging up 10 balls.

"We thought we maybe had the more balanced and complete team. That trio for them is pretty special," said UNK head coach Rick Sqiuers. "Katlyn is absolutely fearless back there and makes everyone better. She works so hard at it and bring a lot of positive energy to the court."

Offensively, UNK out hit Southwest by exactly 100 points, .336 to .236, with senior outside Kelsey Werner (Grand Island) having 13 kills in 27 swings (.444 attack pct.). Also on the outside, Krolikowski had nine kills with freshman right side Katie Sokolowski (Kearney Catholic) having 11, two shy of her season-high, and hitting a match-best.667.

In the middle, Pesavento (13 kills, .522 attack pct.) and Walkowiak (10) also reached double digits in kills. Running this balanced show was senior setter Cola Svec (Elkhorn), who had 51 assists, nine digs and five kills in 10 swings.

Katie Sokolowski
There were just 11 ties and three leads changes in the entire match. The first set was an offensive explosion as, of the 47 points scored, 30 came via kill. Each team had 30 kills over the first two sets but UNK had six fewer errors and controlled the early action to grab a 2-0 match lead.

The momentum couldve changed in the third set as Southwest roared out to leads of 9-2 and 16-8 but the Lopers fought back and eventually served for the sweep twice.

However, an unforced UNK error and kill by Rachel Westby broke a 26 all tie and forced a fourth set to be played. From about the 20th point on in this set, a series of long rallies highlighted the action and kept the crowd of 1,558 on edge.

The Lopers strong play at the end of the third set continued as they jetted out to leads of 8-3 and 13-7, forcing Southwest to use both of its timeouts. UNK was never really threatened after the two breaks and a kill from Werner ended the match.

Set three indication of the team we have. They never will go away and they fought and clawed almost all the way back. It was unfortunate not to close the deal there but, in a stretch of five to seven points, thats some of the best volleyball Ive seen in years,” said Squiers.